For several years now, a strong digital presence has been a defining trait of small businesses that have been able to separate from the pack. While mega-corporations like Apple and Google are expected to have a strong, almost universal presence within the digital space, it still comes as a pleasant surprise to consumers when their favorite corner store has an app, a mobile-friendly website, or Apple Pay implementation.
 
According to recent GetApp research, the biggest factor in creating an online presence, in a landslide, is social media. An effective social media strategy was chosen by 56% small- and mid-size U.S. businesses in response to the question: “Which of these impact the digital presence of your business the most?” Coming in a distant second was a mobile-friendly website, with 28.4% of the vote.
 
Social media not only helps businesses find new customers, but it is an extremely affordable and relatively easy way to learn about their existing audience,” said Amanda Austen, Marketing Specialist at Bond Brand Loyalty. “Not only can businesses better understand the demographic makeup of their audience, businesses can even listen and learn how consumers are actually using their products or services, and leverage those insights for future improvements or offerings.
 
Why has social media become, essentially, the go-to method for small business differentiation?
 
For one, the medium is incredibly easy to implement on a basic level. Anyone that has ever sent a tweet or posted a Facebook status can attest to the fact that creating an account is quick, easy, and relatively painless.
 
In addition to this simple start-up, social media allows small businesses to leverage one of the few advantages they have over larger organizations: Personal two-way dialogue with customers. Social media has become a global phenomenon due in part to its ability to facilitate conversation. Through the platform, small companies can form bonds with their customers, offer personalized content, and convey the “small town” messaging that companies like Amazon have been trying to emulate.
 
“Loyal customers want to engage with the companies they do business with and increasingly that is over social media,” Chris Teso, CEO & Founder of social media solutions provider Chirpify, told Loyalty360. “Small businesses have a distinct advantage in that they are more intimately connected with their customers. Bringing this connection to social media is a natural evolution for consumers who have an intimate relationship with their mobile device, a majority of the time with which is spent in social media.”
 
The channel still must be managed carefully, cautions Michelle Kwong, Head of Marketing at
RewardOps, and authenticity is key to effective communication through the channel.
 
“Social media has been one of the more effective ways to learn about what resonates with our audience,” Kwong said. “Plus, the permission and opportunity to converse with them directly is priceless. What we’ve learned so far is:
 
1. To make social media work as a small business, it’s important to consistently deliver content that is relevant, tells your audience something new and has a clear, authentic point of view
2. Don’t post generic content for the sake of filling a quota. You’ll lose connections for wasting their time
3. There are lots of schools of thought for how to ‘do it right.’ You need to test and learn to see what works for your company.”
 
Digital presence is no longer a luxury – it’s an expectation. For small businesses, online engagement can have an incredible impact when built up from the social media platform.

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